HC Deb 04 July 1973 vol 859 cc505-7
2. Mr Jay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what subjects are on the agenda for the next meeting of the Council of Ministers of the EEC.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Davies)

The estimate of subject headings likely to come up for discussion in the Council this month was lodged in the Vote Office on 28th June.

Mr. Jay

Did the Government agree. in the Council of Ministers, to a document which sought to lay down conditions for the GATT talks this autumn, and which stated that the principles and mechanisms of the common agricultural policy should not be called ino question and were therefore in no way matters for negotiation? Is this not a complete breach of all the pledges we have been given about a thorough review of the CAP?

Mr. Davies

No, Sir, indeed not. The principles of the CAP have always been stated by us clearly to be matters that we would not seek to vary. The mechanisms are, in themselves, the methods by which the principles are applied. If the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) will look a little further at the document he will see that it is provided that should there be arrangements covering commodity arrangements, or something in the nature of good conduct arrangements, there would be an adaptation of the mechanisms concerned. I direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to that chapter in the document.

Mr. Body

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Prime Minister promised the House yesterday that the whole common agricultural policy would be under review and that he also said that, if necessary, the Council of Ministers would discuss this complete review in the autumn? Does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is not only necessary but essential for the Council of Ministers to discuss this matter, because it is within their power to bring to an end these import levies on food, which, in the case of food that is not scarce in the world—and many foodstuffs are in that category—is artificially putting up the price of food in this country? Should not the British people have their point of view expressed to the Council of Ministers on this vital issue?

Mr. Davies

My hon. Friend is creating a certain amount of confusion between the document that is there to set the scene for multilateral negotiations and what may transpire in the Council of Ministers on its own initiative. They are different things. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right in saying that the whole matter of the CAP is being and will be reviewed, and nothing prevents the Council from doing what it wishes in that respect, provided that there is agreement in the Council so to do. But that is different from setting the scene for multilateral negotiations, where the Community is seeking at the outset to set out the basis upon which it believes the negotiations should take place. The Community has not been unforthcoming in this matter. It has clearly postulated its desire to meet precisely the point made by my hon. Friend with regard to certain commodity agreements on an international scale, good conduct arrangements, and so on. My hon. Friend has perhaps not read the document through to its end.

Mr. Douglas

While acknowledging the importance of the CAP, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give the House an indication of the Government's view on a common energy policy? We have the Commission's views, and what we lack are the Government's views on such a policy.

Mr. Davies

The Government consider that there would be great value in a concerted view being developed within the Community to face the problem of the supply of energy in the coming years. The Government have taken that view in their discussions within the Council. The matter is still under discussion—it has not by any means come to an end—and we are waiting for the Commission to put forward further proposals, which we hope it will shortly do, to carry the matter further in the Council.

Mr. Biffen

Is it the hope and expectation of my right hon. Friend that the GATT negotiations will result in a liberalisation of the CAP?

Mr. Davies

I think it would be the Government's wish that multilateral negotiations should result in a broad liberalisation of trading movement world wide in every field, and I do not exclude agriculture from that.

Mr. Richard

May we take it that when the Prime Minister said yesterday that the whole matter would be subject to review he meant that the Government's position is that they do not accept in perpetuity either the principles upon which the CAP is based or the machinery which the Commission has so far devised for the purpose of implementing the CAP? As one who is and always has been a pro-Marketeer, perhaps I may tell the right hon. Gentleman that being in favour of entry into the Common Market does not necessarily mean that one endorses every scrap of the CAP.

Mr. Davies

I believe that the work now being undertaken by the Commission in reviewing the CAP does not exclude anything. Principles, mechanisms and systems can be reviewed. I underline the fact that changes in those are not a matter of a desire of one country. They are clearly matters for discussion between all partners.

Mr. Jay

In view of the extraordinarily unsatisfactory nature of the answer to my Question, I beg to give notice that I shall arise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

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